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Shark attack: Drone-based research may help ease swimmers’ fears

Is that dark shadow a shark or a dolphin?

Imagine you’re out swimming in the ocean on a gorgeous summer day and you suddenly spot a dark shape gliding past you in the water.

Your first concern might be that the creature was a shark, in which case, you’ll be wanting to exit the water pretty darn fast.

Chances are, however, that the unidentified swimming object was something else, according to new research out of Australia.

Southern Cross University professor Brendan Kelaher and his team used drone technology to monitor the waters close to beaches in New South Wales (NSW), analyzing footage to learn more about the various types of sea creatures that come close to the shore.

Working with Southern Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre and the NSW Department of Primary Industries over a period of three years, the research revealed an interesting statistic that should go some way to calming anxious swimmers who can’t seem to get Jaws out of their head whenever they take a dip.

“Our extensive data suggests it is up to 135 times more likely to be a dolphin than a shark,” Professor Kelaher said this week in an article published on his university’s website.

“We do see potentially dangerous sharks in the shallows, but our data show they are much less common than people would have you believe,” Kelaher said. But sounding a note of caution, the professor added that if you’re ever concerned about something you see while swimming, “it’s best to get out of the water.” If you need more reassurance, then check out these tips on how to avoid a shark attack.

Commenting on some of the stunning footage (above) used in the research, Kelaher said his team had been lucky enough to see “fevers of rays exceeding 100 animals, whales feeding on bait balls in the shallows, and incredible chases between sharks, rays, and dolphins.”

Drones for safety

Professor Kelaher was also keen to acknowledge the benefits of drone technology, explaining how it’s making “a valuable contribution to the ecological information required to ensure the long-term sustainability of beach ecosystems.”

Drones are also being used to help to keep bathers safe, with Australian officials increasing spending on the technology to provide lifeguards with a useful eye in the sky. Drone rescue systems that can drop flotation devices from the sky are also being deployed.

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